An odd meditation on exclusion; best to leave this one behind.

EVERYONE WALKS AWAY

Frank is used to being left out. This time, he creatively embraces his loneliness with the hope of luring friendship closer.

Lindström begins her story “when everyone walks away” and poor Frank “is on his own.” Tilly, Paul, and Milan have spurned Frank’s company yet again, and judging by their smug, sideways glances, the trio wants Frank’s exclusion to sting. Frank’s solitude is represented in full-page urban expanses, in which the white, dog-nosed child (or anthropomorphic dog?) is an isolated, downcast figure. Instead of lingering for an invitation, Frank surprises his discourteous peers (also animallike) by heading home and inexplicably “[crying] into a pot.” As Frank boils, sweetens, and stirs his tears, nearby recipe books hint at his goal: to beguile his bullies with a spread of jam and toast. Lindström also leaves increasing evidence that Tilly, Paul, and Milan may be less disdainful of Frank than they let on. When the fruits of Frank’s labor are revealed, the bullies are wooed and a tentative friendship seems to be struck. Adults may balk at Frank’s unsupervised cooking (specifically, when he climbs up right next to a hot stove), and the story’s overall message is murky. Should ostracized children win their tormentors over with gifts or make themselves likable by sweetening their sadness? Despite its hijinks, this Swedish import (via New Zealand) doesn’t follow through.

An odd meditation on exclusion; best to leave this one behind. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: May 7, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-77657-186-4

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Gecko Press

Review Posted Online: Feb. 13, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

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Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story.

CARPENTER'S HELPER

A home-renovation project is interrupted by a family of wrens, allowing a young girl an up-close glimpse of nature.

Renata and her father enjoy working on upgrading their bathroom, installing a clawfoot bathtub, and cutting a space for a new window. One warm night, after Papi leaves the window space open, two wrens begin making a nest in the bathroom. Rather than seeing it as an unfortunate delay of their project, Renata and Papi decide to let the avian carpenters continue their work. Renata witnesses the birth of four chicks as their rosy eggs split open “like coats that are suddenly too small.” Renata finds at a crucial moment that she can help the chicks learn to fly, even with the bittersweet knowledge that it will only hasten their exits from her life. Rosen uses lively language and well-chosen details to move the story of the baby birds forward. The text suggests the strong bond built by this Afro-Latinx father and daughter with their ongoing project without needing to point it out explicitly, a light touch in a picture book full of delicate, well-drawn moments and precise wording. Garoche’s drawings are impressively detailed, from the nest’s many small bits to the developing first feathers on the chicks and the wall smudges and exposed wiring of the renovation. (This book was reviewed digitally with 10-by-20-inch double-page spreads viewed at actual size.)

Renata’s wren encounter proves magical, one most children could only wish to experience outside of this lovely story. (Picture book. 3-7)

Pub Date: March 16, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-593-12320-1

Page Count: 40

Publisher: Schwartz & Wade/Random

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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Safe to creep on by.

LOVE FROM THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR

Carle’s famous caterpillar expresses its love.

In three sentences that stretch out over most of the book’s 32 pages, the (here, at least) not-so-ravenous larva first describes the object of its love, then describes how that loved one makes it feel before concluding, “That’s why… / I[heart]U.” There is little original in either visual or textual content, much of it mined from The Very Hungry Caterpillar. “You are… / …so sweet,” proclaims the caterpillar as it crawls through the hole it’s munched in a strawberry; “…the cherry on my cake,” it says as it perches on the familiar square of chocolate cake; “…the apple of my eye,” it announces as it emerges from an apple. Images familiar from other works join the smiling sun that shone down on the caterpillar as it delivers assurances that “you make… / …the sun shine brighter / …the stars sparkle,” and so on. The book is small, only 7 inches high and 5 ¾ inches across when closed—probably not coincidentally about the size of a greeting card. While generations of children have grown up with the ravenous caterpillar, this collection of Carle imagery and platitudinous sentiment has little of his classic’s charm. The melding of Carle’s caterpillar with Robert Indiana’s iconic LOVE on the book’s cover, alas, draws further attention to its derivative nature.

Safe to creep on by. (Picture book. 3-6)

Pub Date: Dec. 15, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-448-48932-2

Page Count: 32

Publisher: Grosset & Dunlap

Review Posted Online: Feb. 2, 2021

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